Washington Baltimore Center for Psychoanalysis

Beyond the COuch

Father Gregory Boyle’s TED Talk & Community Psychoanalysis

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Father Gregory Boyle is founder of Homeboy industries in California, the largest gang intervention, rehabilitation, and re-entry program in the world. What do his approach and emergent directions in psychoanalysis have in common? A lot.

Homeboy Industries in Los Angeles has spent 30 years helping formerly gang-involved or incarcerated people redirect their lives and welcomes thousands of individuals through its doors each year. With that many clients, you need more than individual treatment. You have to work in groups. And as it turns out, that is one of the keys to its success.

In a TED Talk called Compassion and Kinship that he gave a few years back, Father Gregory described his work and the Homeboy Industries approach. What stands out is that while he is not a psychoanalyst and uses different jargon, he talks about everything that we think about every day in our offices, including trust, relationships, and the impacts of trauma, culture, and family. 

[PULLQUOTE] The power of group work is deep healing and transformation of individuals is much more than a practicality.

Father Gregory, a dynamic speaker with a great sense of humanity, articulates components to his radically successful approach that align with the 10 Principles of Community Psychoanalysis LINK to blog post that the WBCP Community Psychoanalysis Study Group has developed and is working with. For brief reference, they are:

1. Meet Everyone Where They Are

2. Working Alliances

3. Relationships

4. Facilitating Environment
5. Therapeutic Frame
6. Analytic Listening and Understanding
7. Reflective Practice
8. Close Observation
9. Working Through
10. Group Process

As he describes it, gleaned from his own words, he meets everyone where they are (#1), fully accepting their realities, and develops a kinship with them (#2), a trusting relationship (#3), maintaining a sense of awe for what the poor souls have had to manage to survive in their world. He creates a safe place for them to talk (#4), to work to mend. 

His therapeutic frame (#5) is flexible, perhaps meeting them in the bakery where they are training to be bakers or in the café where they are working as waiters. He listens analytically, reflectively, and observes carefully. (#6,7,8) He is curious about both the internal “mind” of his organization and its members as well as environmental, cultural, and racial factors influencing and impacting the individuals and groups within this community. 

“We work with those who have been left behind without hope,” Father Gregory says. “Their healing and re-entry is often not achieved in a straight line—it can take years, with detours along the way. But our impact is evident in each life transformed, and as those lives impact their families and communities, we’re creating a positive ripple effect not only around the city of Los Angeles, but in communities around the world.” (#9)

Finally, he works with the power of the group (#10), with other gang members, often rival gang members, working together and developing a bond, where they send texts to each other rather than bullets. 

The power of group work is deep healing and transformation of individuals is much more than a practicality. For Father Gregory and the Homeboy Industries staff and for community-based psychoanalysts, the influence that the individuals have on each other holds an exponential power. At Homeboy Industries, the co-workers (all former or current gang members) begin to help each other, they talk their siblings out of joining gangs, they are better neighbors, communities are safer, spouses and parents and the kids have a better life.

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